New to Filk
So you’d like to come and join in but don’t want to be the neo at the back? Fear not, here’s the essentials you need to fit right in!
What’s filk anyway?
(with thanks to definitions by Kay Shapero and Nick Smith)
“Filk” has been described as the folk music of the science-fiction fan community. It’s a mixture of song parodies and original music, humorous and serious, about subjects like science fiction, fantasy, computers, cats, politics, the space programme, books, movies, TV shows, love, war, death…
Filk music started off forty or fifty years ago, at SF cons, where people got together late at night to have good old-fashioned folk music song circles. The name “filk” started out as a typo of “folk” and was gleefully adopted by all and sundry as a term for what is after all a somewhat unusual subset.
These days, there is such diversity in the music performed that a recently proposed definition of filk music was “music that filkers play”.
No need to book, just turn up. If you arrive late, wait until you hear clapping, then enter the hall quietly and take a seat. Obviously no loud conversations or talking on a mobile phone during the concert!
Activities (e.g. workshops)
If there are limited places, you may need to sign up in advance or early in the convention.
Please arrive promptly for workshops, as they’re usually jam-packed with busy-ness.
Turn up (and head off) whenever you like; as with concerts, wait for clapping before you come into the room and take a seat. If you fancy playing or singing, bring your relevant instruments and/or enthusiasm!
Circles tend to be run in one of two ways:
Bardic, where we go round the circle and each person in turn chooses either to play a song, request a song (e.g. “does anyone have a song about Firefly?“), or pass.
Chaos, where people can jump in at random, especially where they have a song which follows the theme of the one before, but do not be afraid to break in with something unrelated. Chaos circles can be a bit manic for the newcomer, so here’s some vital know-how for how to take part:
If you’ve got an instrument or voice (“and I’m not afraid to use it!”), wait until clapping has subsided and start strumming/playing/singing. If someone else has started at the same time, make eye contact and come to a speedy gentle(wo)man’s agreement of who will go first. Be gracious!
If you’re not sure how you’ll show you want to perform, or you’re feeling a bit shy, have your music out and at the ready, and smile at a responsible-looking filker (we will have one or two on hand) who will help get you in.
If you’ve just done a song, expect to wait a while before you do another, especially in a large circle. Even if you think all the usual suspects have had their turn, there might be a shyer fan just about to pluck up the courage to sing. Leave some space for them to do just that!
Enjoy yourself! There is no required ‘skill level’ for taking part in a circle - nor any pressure to perform if you’d rather listen in.
There are also plenty of songs with a rousing, memorable chorus for those who prefer to sing along with others. So whether you’re a curious listener, experienced performer, or someone who just wants a taster, please join us!
Want to know more about filk?
There are lots of handy resources on the web, but why not start with:
filk.co.uk — Rafe Culpin’s resource for information on filk in the UK, with links to the WiGGLe list, upcoming events, related links, news, history and other information.
Kay Shapero’s Filk Frequently Asked Questions and Debbie Ohi’s Filk FAQ cover a large and varied number of filk-related topics.
There is a Filk-UK mailing list and filk IRC channel to help you keep up with the news.
Never heard any filk? Why not check out the Filk Archive?